Aug 31 2013

Ingredients of a Palestinian uprising

Published by at 12:18 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

Predicting the next Intifada, or popular outbreak, is next to impossible.

The past years have seen many predictions of an imminent third Intifada, only to have these expectations proven wrong.

While prophesying a wave of mass protests is difficult, one can look back at the last two Intifadas and the many smaller Intifadas and point out the ingredients that can possibly cause the third uprising.

One major ingredient of a popular uprising is the sense of hopelessness.

In 1987, 20 years after the Israeli occupation and eight years after the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement, there was no sign of a political process that would lead to the end of the occupation.

In 2000, similar disenchantment occurred, this time not because of the absence of a peace process but because of the failure of one.

Palestinians had their hopes raised by a moderate Israeli leader and a second-term US president. Bill Clinton had invested a tremendous amount of time in the Palestinian issue, welcoming Arafat numerous times at the White House, visiting Bethlehem and Gaza, and even attending a session of the Palestine National Council.

Yet, despite these facts, the Camp David Summit in the fall of 2000 failed miserably to achieve a breakthrough, thus producing the second Intifada.

Settlement activities are also an important ingredient.

When Palestinians see bulldozers, new settler-only roads being built and caravans moving in, they know that the Israelis have no intention to cede Palestinian land.

In 1987, Palestinians saw the increase of settlements that Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon decided to establish near populated Palestinian towns like Nablus, and they realised that this colonial campaign does not signal peace.

This ingredient feeds into the first one and produces a high level of helplessness and desperation, both key ingredients for an angry outburst.

Settlement activities continued despite the 1993 Oslo Accords and despite the talks during Clinton’s two terms.

Jerusalem and tampering with the holy city and its symbols important to Palestinian and the rest of the Muslim world, such as Al Aqsa Mosque, might not have been a direct trigger of violence in 1987, but the killings in the mosque in 1990 helped keep the flame and the desire for revenge alive.

The second Intifada followed the failure of the Camp David talk precisely over Jerusalem. This was further inflamed by Sharon’s provocative visit to Al Aqsa Mosque, as a challenge to the then-prime minister Ehud Barak.

Popular and violent outbursts usually require some kind of trigger. The first Intifada was triggered by an Israeli truck running over and killing six Palestinians from the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza.

In 2000, the violent Israeli crackdown on the demonstrators opposing Sharon’s visit to Al Aqsa resulted in the deaths of tens of Palestinians.

A look at the present situation produces a scary picture that reveals the existence of all these ingredients.

The settlement activities continue unabated, desecration of Al Aqsa Mosque has escalated and while peace talks have begun, it is clear that the Palestinian public has very little faith in them, especially since Israel continues to build settlements encroaching on Palestinian land.

The killing of three Palestinians deep inside the Qalandia refugee camp despite the peace talks adds to the disenchantment with the talks and can be the trigger event for a third Intifada.

Again, it is impossible to predict when a mass popular response will occur in Palestine. The strong control exercised by the Palestinian security force and President Mahmoud Abbas’ opposition to the militarisation of protests, coupled with the absence of Israeli troops or settlers from the Gaza Strip, make such a possibility remote.

Some basic ingredients for an uprising are clearly present.

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